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Sustainable Management of HighCarbon Coastal Zones: A Key Solution to Climate Change

Thursday, 09 February 2012
On 12 January 2012, a symposium entitled “Blue Carbon – Managing Coastal Ecosystems for Climate Change Mitigation” took place in the European Parliament in Brussels. It was organized by the Secretariat of the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development run jointly by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD), an IUCN Member. Bringing together high level International and European policy makers and experts, the symposium was held back to back with the second workshop of the International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group.

The important role of the coastal ecosystem management in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss acted as the focal point of the symposium.  Particularly, the participants emphasized that there is a crucial need to integrate the coastal Blue Carbon –based activities such as the conservation and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems in all climate change mitigation strategies and biodiversity policies at International and European level.

Blue carbon is the carbon stored by the marine and coastal ecosystems. In particular, the coastal ecosystems of tidal marshes, mangroves and seagrasses sequester and store large quantities of blue carbon in both the plants and in the sediment below them. These Blue Carbon ecosystems are being degraded and destroyed at a rapid pace along the world’s coastlines, resulting in globally significant emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and ocean and contributing to climate change. Notably, a square mile of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes, which can be found all over the world except Antarctica, can store and remove more carbon from oceans and the atmosphere than a square mile of mature tropical forests.

Nowadays, coastal and marine ecosystems are in jeopardy due to pollution, coastal activities and unsustainable management practices. The continued disappearance of these systems which act as a carbon sponge will have severe impact on climate change: they will stop sequestering CO2 and they will release the carbon they have been storing for centuries.

Taking account of this catastrophic scenario, Dr. Emily Pidgeon, Senior Director of Strategic Marine Initiatives at Conservation International said: “We need to employ a targeted strategy that prioritizes the conservation of specific, high-carbon coastal zones. The challenge we face is to show how these ecosystems provide a service, acting as a carbon sponge, and that their conservation does not stand as a roadblock to development or food production.”


The International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group is part of the Blue Carbon Initiative, the first integrated programme focused on mitigating climate change by conserving and restoring coastal marine ecosystems globally. It will provide a strategic framework and support required policy development to advance coastal  Blue Carbon in relevant international and regional climate, ocean and coastal regimes and fora. The group will focus on a comprehensive approach and financing of natural carbon management for climate change mitigation under the UNFCCC and other relevant agreements and mechanisms.

Source: IUCN
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